In June, we celebrated the Queen’s diamond jubilee, which was a lovely occasion for just about everyone involved except poor old Prince Philip. The Duke of Edinburgh, who was nearly 91 at the time, stood resolutely through four hours of howling wind and rain during the Thames river pageant and was rewarded for his efforts with a bladder infection that saw him admitted to hospital for five nights. Being over 90, it seems, is no longer an excuse for giving up work. Even when you’re royalty, you’re not allowed to stop. It’s like society is saying: “Retirement at 65? Ha, that’s for wusses. Come back when you’re 110 and we’ll talk about it then.”
There will be many accountants out there who sympathise with Prince Philip (especially those who have elderly relatives and know what a colossal achievement it is to stand for four hours at the age of 91). They thought they’d get a break in their dotage. They have practices that they painstakingly built up over many years and a loyal client base they once hoped to pass on to an eager, young successor. They dreamed of retiring early after decades of hard graft and wiling away the days playing golf or doing charity work. But instead they are still pouring over their clients’ accounts because unlike Prince Philip, who has four children and eight grandchildren, they haven’t produced an heir.
Unfortunately, it is getting increasingly harder for accountancy firms to find the next generation of high-calibre professionals to take over from their existing partners. The financial rewards of equity partnership in small or medium-sized firms just do not compete with the salaries offered by large firms and the commercial sector. Meanwhile, the financial crisis has not helped matters. Accountancy firms have felt downward pressure on fees in recent years and annuity rates for accountants approaching retirement age have been hammered by quantitative easing.
But there is a bright side. Oh, yes, there’s usually a bright side. And the good news is this: at least the world always needs accountants. It’s true. You are in demand. You are essential to the ticking of the economy, no matter how ailing it is. So if you do find yourself working until you’re 90, remember you’ll be doing something you’re good at and something that generally pays well. Even better, if you’re a partner, you’ll still be your own boss and able to reap the rewards of your own labours. You might even find you’re thankful for your work. It will help to keep your mind and body active and who knows, like Prince Philip, you might think nothing of standing for four hours on the trot. Pah! Who needs retirement anyway? Retirement’s for wusses.